Is your “bro” behavior ruining your relationship?
Are you sick of your guy dismissing you (or your relationship) to look “cool” in front of his friends? After all, as an adult man, hasn’t he grown out of that behavior by now?
Society conditions men (from the time they’re young boys) to walk through the world stifling their feelings, honoring what’s “manly,” and connecting with other men in a way that doesn’t explore deep emotions. Groups of “manly men” then police each other’s masculinity (as society defines it), pressuring each other to “perform” masculinity as constant proof they’re honoring the code and therefore belong to the club of “men.” This practice creates what educator, activist and acclaimed TEDx speaker Tony Porter refers to as the “man-box.”
The reality behind “man box” conditioning is that not all men are victims of it, but all men do feel pressure to either adopt or reject the norms. On a deep level, men must consciously decide whether being heartfelt, sensitive, or loving compromises masculinity, strength, and power.
These standards weigh on the minds of many men, forcing them to abandon who they are for society’s myopic view of “masculinity.”
As a result, by trying to look “cool” in front of their guy friends, men end up looking like one-dimensional idiots (especially to the women who love them). Here are five sad and disappointing ways your man damages your relationships and undermines his personal integrity by trying to act “cool” in front of his friends:
1. He insults femininity
The number one way men cut their friends (and enemies) down is by calling them a “girl.” They might say, “You’re being a woman” or “stop being such a little bitch.” It’s ironic that men use this separation from girls/women as a primary way of bonding with other men, because it hides their genuine desire to connect behind a thorny exterior while it simultaneously insults and disconnects them from you … the “girl” in their life whom they supposedly love and honor.
2. He acts like commitment is horrible and tying him down
All healthy relationships require commitment — a commitment to being faithful, loving, and in touch with your partner. The last thing a man wants his friends to think is that he’s been domesticated, metaphorically neutered by his relationship. Bros don’t pat you on the back for actually loving and caring about someone. Handing in his proverbial “Player Card” (by admitting he’s head over heels for you) is a death sentence according to toxic masculinity. It challenges the appeal of the chase, the prowl, the search for freedom and sexual conquest necessary to “being a man.”
3. He won’t open up emotionally
A man focused on “performing masculinity” resists opening up about his needs emotionally. The inevitable result is toting around a long list of failed relationships, in which he kept his needs (and feelings) at arm’s length, because he feared losing the respect of his friends if they saw how trapped and isolated he felt. (In other words, admitting that a breakup or failed relationship hurt him = not cool). If he never lets you get close (especially in front of his friends) it’s easier to act like he never cared in the first place when it ends.
4. He acts like a phony
Authenticity requires being in touch with who you are at your deepest level. Men striving to win approval from male peers never really stand authentically in who they truly are, let alone behave consistently in alignment with what they most want out of life. Inauthentic men typically surround themselves with inauthentic forms of living their lives (i.e. lots of outward signs of success, including using women as trophies). It’s no surprise why they embrace identifying with umbrella terms like “bros,” rather than having a clear individual sense of identify.
5. He makes aggression his default recreational activity
Men participate over and over again in aggression pageants throughout their lives. From contact sports to shouting out of car windows at pretty women, men gather their “street credibility” from their friends by engaging in domineering (and sometimes downright demeaning) behavior. Society limits men to acting aggressive and having aggressive hobbies as their main outlets for “acceptable” behavior. The result is a severe need for constant validation and acceptance, thus rejecting sensitivity and vulnerability as weak, feminine or homosexual.
What can you do about your man’s immature (and insecure) behavior?
The best thing a woman can do for a man caught up in “performing masculinity” is not to take it personally. Understand the conditioning he received that made him act this way. Adults and peers told him to “man up” his entire life and despite his posturing, he’s actually walking an emotional tight rope of only being allowed to express a few “safe” masculine emotions.
Here are a few ways to begin ushering your man toward a more multi-dimensional form of masculinity … or rather, humanity:
- Encourage him to express his feelings. Use phrases like: “I find it so sexy when you tell me what you want.” “I really respect you when you share yourself with me.” Check in with him about his opinions, emotions, and reactions to what’s happening in his life. “How did that make you feel?” “Does that bother you?”
- Do NOT accept his inconsiderate behavior or insensitivity. Understand why he says what he says, but allow him to understand why his behavior is unacceptable, hurtful, and that it has consequences. Show him that being empathetic commands respect and takes courage.
- Create an environment in your relationship in which him having a healthy emotional life feels safe and nurtured. Dig deep down into the trenches of your thoughts — your feelings — and encourage him to open up. This includes expressing your own vulnerability and encouraging him to do so, in turn, making him feel welcome to share moments of vulnerability and sensitivity, or bring his feelings to the table. Listen intently and give him undivided attention when he’s opening up.
Dealing with your man’s skewed sense of masculinity often feels frustrating. Understanding why he behaves that way doesn’t make his actions better or less hurtful. But, it just might help you take it less personally, creating space for you to work with him as he betters himself and, in turn, your union.
Originally appeared at YourTango